When you think of Statesville, North Carolina, a few words come to mind—quaint, historic, and charming. This small city is just an hour’s drive north of Charlotte and has so much to offer for the perfect weekend getaway!
Growing up just over the border in Rock Hill, South Carolina meant that I had been familiar with Statesville and the greater Charlotte area of North Carolina for years and was always drawn by its beauty.
I recently spent a weekend in Statesville attending the Full Bloom Film Festival and exploring the town. My experience was nothing short of amazing as I got to take in some incredible independent films as well as discover more about this beautiful area.
If you’re looking for unique things to do on a budget for a short trip from Charlotte, NC then Statesville is worth a visit! From vintage thrift shops and cozy cafes to outdoor activities like biking and kayaking at Lake Norman there are countless ways to have fun here. And the best part? Most of these activities are very affordable!
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Discover Statesville during our trip, however, all opinions are our own honest thoughts. Thank you to the team at Discover Statesville for such a lovely stay!
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Where is Statesville, North Carolina Located?
Statesville is located in the heart of Iredell County, less than an hour’s drive north of Charlotte and about 120 miles from Raleigh. It is conveniently situated right off Interstate 77 and is an easy destination to stop on a road trip along the East Coast or during a trip to Charlotte or Raleigh.
Where to Stay in Statesville, North Carolina
Statesville is home to 21 hotels so there is a wide range of accommodations to choose from for every style of travel and budget. Some are located in the heart of downtown, perfect for quick access to the hustle and bustle. Others are positioned a short ride away, ideal for travelers looking for a quiet retreat.
These are a few accommodations we were able to visit during our trip, and what we thought:
Fairfield Inn & Suites
The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Statesville is a great place to stay if you’re looking for comfort and convenience in Statesville, North Carolina. The hotel itself was very nice with a lot of amenities, including an indoor pool and fitness center. While we didn’t have time to enjoy them ourselves, we did appreciate the options.
The rooms were also very comfy and clean – perfect for travelers looking for a comfortable stay in Statesville. The first floor also had a lounge with comfortable seating and breakfast included which was convenient.
Furthermore, the hotel staff were very friendly and helpful, which made our stay all the more enjoyable. All in all, we had a wonderful stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Statesville and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a weekend getaway from Charlotte!
Inn on Front Street
While we didn’t personally stay at the Inn on Front Street, we were able to attend an event during the Full Bloom Film Festival that was located here.
The Inn on Front Street is incredibly charming with a lovely garden in the back full of lush plants and fountains. We were only there for a short breakfast but I could easily see myself spending hours in the many places to sit, with a book and a cup of tea.
This little Inn is also conveniently located close to Historic Downtown Statesville, so visitors could easily park their cars and walk around the charming neighborhoods downtown.
Short Term Rentals
While Statesville is still a growing town there are a few options for short-term rentals. Check out VRBO for current prices and availability – some even allow you to bring your furry friends and are within walking distance to the heart of downtown.
Things to do in Statesville
Fly in a Hot Air Balloon
Have you ever flown in a hot air balloon? This is such a unique attraction and something that Statesville is known for. We started out our trip with a sunrise hot air balloon flight, piloted by Tree Top Flyer Ballooning.
Patrick was such an expert at getting the hot air balloon unpacked and into the air, navigating the weather and wind to land us perfectly a few hours later in a field, while his daughter tracked us from the ground to meet us.
We had the chance to fly with another group from BigOh! Balloons and watch them float through the sky along with us.
If you splurge on one thing during your trip to Statesville, North Carolina, make it a hot air balloon ride!
Hang out with Alpacas
We bet you didn’t think that hanging out with Alpacas was going to be on your itinerary to Statesville but that is what makes this hidden gem so unique.
Javi and Valerie Chavez open their working alpaca farm for visitors to tour. Serenity At Stony Point Alpaca Farm is located just 15 minutes from downtown Statesville and is a fun, affordable attraction to visit while in the area.
Javi and Valerie are from Peru and New Jersey, respectively, and have made Statesville their own. Their alpaca farm is such a fun place to visit, and the couple is very friendly and informative to visitors about all things alpacas. They even sell fair-trade alpaca fleece items sourced from Peru to support local communities and educate guests about alpaca fibers.
We love that Serenity At Stony Point Alpaca Farm lets the animals have their own choice about who they will interact with and when. They educate their guests about respecting the alpacas and allow the animals to move about on their own – making them happy and healthy alpacas! They also compost the alpaca manure to grow things around the farm – like Javi’s Peruvian peppers! These are just a few of the sustainable efforts they are making.
Taste History at Statesville’s First Distillery in a Century
Statesville has had a complicated history with alcohol, having gone dry a whopping 17 years before the country-wide prohibition. Prior to that, it was actually known as the “Liquor Capital of the World”, serving as a crossroads for the distribution of spirits from over 450 distilleries across the world.
Lucky for you, Southern Distilling Company is back in Statesville to reclaim North Carolina’s whiskey legacy. The distillery is open for tastings, tours, and craft beverages visitors will not want to miss.
Even I, as a less than enthusiastic fan of whiskey, found myself pleasantly surprised at how delicious the smooth bourbon tasted in the old-fashioned Melissa made for me. She was a wealth of knowledge and led us on an in-depth tour of the facilities before getting a sneak peek at the rickhouse and events venue.
This tour is definitely a must on your adventures around Statesville.
Rent a Bike to Explore Historic Downtown Statesville or hit the trails
First Flight Bikes offers bike rentals in addition to selling bikes and offering bike maintenance. The staff here are extremely knowledgeable and friendly. They offer a detailed map of the greater Iredell County area and several bike rentals for anything from mountain biking, to gravel, to paved trails.
We rented an e-bike and took a quick 5-mile loop tour through the historic part of downtown Statesville. This was such a fresh way to explore the town and also get some movement in. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it as a fun and unique way to discover more of Statesville.
After the bike ride, I sat at the bar inside and ordered a local brew. First Flight Bikes offers local beers on tap as well as wine and cold waters. They want to encourage a sense of community and regularly catch up with local customers who stop in for a drink. We instantly felt welcomed and connected here.
Visit Lake Norman State Park
Take your bike out to Lake Norman State Park, or just head that way for a hike to get into nature. Lake Norman State Park is a great escape for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers, located just 20 minutes from Statesville, NC.
The park boasts a variety of different trails for hikers and bikers, from a 30-mile loop encircling the park to trails just under a mile. For those looking to get out on the water, there are plenty of opportunities too!
With 17 miles of shoreline, Lake Norman provides lots of opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, and kayaking. This is a great place to get outside, stretch your legs, and see the beautiful area surrounding Statesville.
Pick your own Muscadine and Scuppernong Grapes
Another unique activity to do in Statesville is visiting a vineyard to pick Scuppernong and Muscadine grapes. These two varietals are different from the grapes we are used to at the store, or even European wine grapes.
Lorne Cook, owner of Hazy Red Vineyard took us out onto his farm to teach us more. The Scuppernong and Muscadine grapes have seeds on the inside and extremely thick skins, referred to as the hulls. They are known to have some of the highest antioxidants of any fruits and therefore historically used for their pharmaceutical benefits.
Scuppernong vines have been growing in North America for longer than any other grape varietal, the oldest of which is still growing today in North Carolina. On the coast of North Carolina on Roanoke Island is the “Mother Vine,” estimated to be more than 400 years old and rumored to have been planted by Croatan Native Americans.
Lucky for you, however, you don’t have to travel far to pick your own Scuppernong and Muscadine Grapes. There are several vineyards around Statesville that offer guests the opportunity to come pick their own.
Hazy Red Vineyards is open seasonally for U-pick Scuppernong grapes, or to purchase the sweet delicious muscadine grapes already harvested by the quart.
Check out their Facebook page for the most updated information regarding the U-pick season.
Explore Historic Downtown Statesville
The Historic Downtown district of Statesville, North Carolina is a gem worth exploring. While we recommend strolling the streets to take in the charm at a leisurely pace, here are a few key stops to get you started:
- Coca-Cola Mural: painted on the side of Roots Outdoor, this vivid mural was a ghost mural that was recently brought back to life in 2019 as a part of the project with Coca-Cola Consolidated. Located just off Broad Street, this mural is iconic in Statesville. In fact, it may even be a stop on the Art This Way scavenger hunt.
- Mitchell Community College: chartered in 1852 (originally as Concord Presbyterian Female College), this historic college has been a part of the fabric of Statesville, NC for over 170 years! Mitchell College now makes up the focal point in one of four local historic districts in Statesville.
- Iredell Museums: most well-known for their 3,000-year-old authentic Egyptian mummy on permanent display, the Iredell Museums’ Court Street location in downtown Statesville is a great place to learn more about the historic area of Statesville as well as take in some history throughout the world.
- Statesville Historical Collection: this free-to-visit collection has been curated over the past 50 years by local Steve Hill who delights in sharing the history of his hometown with visitors and locals alike.
Attend One of the Many Yearly Events in Statesville, NC
Through organizations like the Iredell Arts Council, Discover Statesville, and Downtown Statesville there is no shortage of fun things to do in Statesville throughout the year.
We attended the 8th annual Full Bloom Film Festival, and even as a non-movie buff had a lot of fun. This year’s festival showed 44 short and feature films from 14 different countries throughout the world. The films were just one part of the festival; we also enjoyed meet and greets, round tables, and red carpet events with filmmakers as VIP attendees.
While at the International Full Bloom Film Festival, we came to appreciate the art of independent films and saw that this annual event taking place in the Statesville community was something special. Statements were made such as:
“There’s a much bigger market for indie features than people realize” -Director Michael Glover Smith
“What you’re doing here in Statesville is life-changing” -Director KT Curran
We highly recommend visiting Statesville during this event at least once in your life as it was a fun way to get to know the local and international film community and connect with locals.
You can also visit Statesville, NC in the fall for the annual Carolina Balloonfest to see the sky filled with hot air balloons. Named the Ballooning Capital of the East, Statesville’s Carolina Balloonfest began 50 years ago and is celebrating its 48th annual event this October (2023)
The Bi-annual Art Crawl also takes place in the Fall as well as the Spring and is a popular event in Statesville.
Other Fun Things to Do in Statesville
While we did cover quite a bit of ground during our time discovering things to do in Statesville, we couldn’t do them all! Here are some other fun things Statesville, NC is known for that we would love to do on another visit:
- Fort Dobbs Historic Site
- Iredell Museums – Gregory Creek Homesteads
- Rescue Ranch
- Historic Sharpe House
- Statesville Greenway
- Daveste’ Vineyards
- Love Valley
- Resettlers Antique Mall
- BigLeaf Slopes Park
- Emerald Hollow Mine
Where to Eat and Drink in Statesville, NC
Lake Mountain Coffee
This coffee shop was what first drew us to visit Statesville – with their huge, spacious seating areas and quality locally roasted coffee, it is a can’t-miss. Start your day off visiting Statesville with a brew and a cinnamon roll baked by local Amish communities. Don’t forget to grab a bag of roasted coffee beans to bring the memories home with you!
Owners John and Kelli operate this local favorite like a smooth engine. Known for their gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options, 220 Cafe was a must-stop for us while in town. Chef John hails from Louisiana and loves cooking up lots of seafood and other flavorful options, from the expansive salads to the tantalizing appetizers on the menu.
We enjoyed the popular 220 Cafe grilled chicken sandwich, the fried goat cheese drizzled with honey, and the roasted Brussels Sprouts with cranberries and walnuts.
Red Buffalo Brewing
Don’t miss this local craft brewery while in downtown Statesville. The taproom itself has an eclectic vibe, with metal signs and funky decor plus live music and plenty of space to hang. The craft beer is also fun and quirky: we tried the Funky Punky just released for fall complete with a sugar-cinnamon rim.
Other Restaurants in Statesville, NC to Check Out
There are so many incredible restaurants in Statesville to choose from! We didn’t have a chance to cross all of them off of our list, so here are a few more places to eat in Statesville we would love to visit on the next trip:
- Twisted Oak Bar and Grill
- Randy’s BBQ
- Broad Street Burger
- Ol’ Bob’s BBQ
- Jay Bee’s Hot Dogs
- Unwined Bar & Eatery
Is Statesville, NC worth visiting?
Statesville, North Carolina is definitely worth visiting. With its Ballooning Capitol status and its bi-annual Art Crawl, to the historic sites such as Fort Dobbs Historic Site and Sharpe House, to the many things to do outdoors like the Statesville Greenway or the Resettlers Antique Mall, there’s something for everyone. And don’t forget the delicious food and drink options that await you! From 220 Cafe’s Louisiana-style seafood and American fare, to Red Buffalo’s local craft beers, to Lake Mountain Coffee’s cozy atmosphere, there are plenty of things to do in Statesville.
What is Statesville, NC known for?
Statesville, NC is known for being the Ballooning Capitol of the East, its bi-annual Art Crawl, historic sites such as Fort Dobbs Historic Site and the Sharpe House, outdoor activities like the Statesville Greenway, and the Resettlers Antique Mall.
What is Iredell County, NC known for?
Iredell County, NC is known for its picturesque countryside, rolling hills, and lush green forests. The county offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and camping.
The county is also home to several historic sites and local attractions including Fort Dobbs State Historic Site in Statesville and Lake Norman State Park.
Are there cool things to do in Statesville NC?
Yes, there are plenty of cool things to do in Statesville NC. Visitors can explore the beautiful and historic downtown area, take flight in a hot air balloon, visit a local farm with Alpacas, and enjoy outdoor activities on the Statesville Greenway such as walking or biking. There are also plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options nearby.
Final Thoughts on what to do in Statesville
No matter what kind of traveler you are, Statesville has something for everyone. From exploring the historic downtown, to attending local events like the Carolina Balloonfest, to outdoor recreation like Lake Norman State Park, there’s always something new to discover.
Whether it’s a day trip or a longer vacation, don’t miss out on all that this beautiful city has to offer.
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